It is highly recommended to study the transport a bit before your trip to Japan. Let’s go through some tips!

JR, Subways, Privately-Owned Railways, and Buses in Japan

Prominent transportation in the extensive network in Japan includes “JR”, underground “subway”, and “shitetsu” (literally privately-owned railways) operated by a number of companies. There are also collaboration among the central government, public organizations (1st sector) and private organizations (2nd sector), which is commonly unknown as “3rd sector” railways; not to mention buses, which also has extensive accesses.

What is JR?

JR is the short form of Japan Railways, which refer to the for-profit group with railway and other business. It consists of seven companies- Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido), East Japan Railway Company (JR East Japan), Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central), West Japan Railway Company (JR West Japan), Shikoku Railway Company (JR Shikoku), Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu) and Japan Freight Railway Company (JR Freight); the former six are for passenger and the last one is for freight.

 What is “Shitetsu”?

Shitetsu means “Shiyu Tetsudo” (literally “privately own railways”), and it refers to railways that is not operated by governmental or public organizations. It includes as many as 15 groups such as Tokyu, Tobu, Seibu, Keikyu, Keio, Odakyu, Keisei…in Kanto area; Hankyu, Kintetsu, Keihan, Hanshin, Nankai…in Kansai, along with Meitetsu in Nagoya, and Nishitetsu in Kyushu area. They usually have huge networks running through big cities to contribute in citizens’ commute and delivery of goods.

 Subways in Japan

“Subway” in Japan usually runs through the underground tunnels in big cities. The first subway in Japan was born in 1927, which ran between Asakusa and Ueno, Tokyo. Now, subway is also available in Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Kobe, Sapporo, Yokohama, Fukuoka, Sendai, etc.

Buses in Japan

The “route bus” service is available in different parts in Japan, which all go along fixed routes in fixed schedules. Besides, there are “airport buses” connecting airports to metropolitan areas, as well as “highway bus” and “night bus” running rather long distance to link up cities in different parts of the country.

A Quick List to See Railway Passes in Different Areas

FUN! JAPAN Team has summarized the discount tickets and passes based on their respective areas! Check them out accordingly!

Japan is huge and with various transportation means. Master them, get around effectively, and get the best options!


  • Many of them (not all) are exclusive to visitors entered Japan via a temporary visitor visa. They are not applicable to residents in Japan.
  • Sometimes, you can enjoy discount and save costs by reserving tickets online before you come to Japan.
  • Sales points and reservation methods all vary among different railways.
  • In most cases, you have to show your identification, such as your passport, when you purchase the ticket.